Dr. Ahmet Kuru, director of the Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies and professor of political science at San Diego State University, addressed the problems of authoritarianism and underdevelopment faced in many Muslim-majority countries during a lecture on Thursday, Sept. 28, on the Niagara University campus.
Dr. Kuru shed light on the reasons Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison to world averages, as discussed in his award-winning book, “Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison.” Dr. Kuru argued that it is the alliance between religious and political authorities, or the ulema-state alliance, that has hindered democracy and development in the contemporary Muslim world, rather than Islam or Western colonialism.
He noted that during the “Golden Age” of that region, between the eighth and 11th centuries, Muslims were philosophically and socioeconomically more developed than Western Europeans, because philosophers and merchants were influential during that time. The decline of the Muslim world began, he said, when those individuals became marginalized, rather than in later years when colonization began.
Dr. Kuru is also the author of “Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey.”
The lecture, which was organized by Niagara’s Middle Eastern and Islamic studies program and sponsored by the Academic Innovation Fund and the Niagara Vincentian Center for Justice, was presented as part of the university’s Vincentian Heritage Week activities, an annual observation of NU’s rich history of education and service in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul.